The apostle Paul described his labor and struggle to bring everyone to Christ in the first chapter of Colossians. He poured out his love, his energy, even his sweat and blood to effectively share the hope and glory of Jesus. In contrast, I eked and dribbled Christ's love.
Frankly, all those spiritual conversations with Julie left me mentally and emotionally tired. Did I offend her sense of tolerance with "Jesus talk"? I'd wonder. Was there something I should have said, but left out? The murkiness of our spiritual conversations left me exhausted. I wanted a simple, clean, sterile relationship. The excuse of tolerance allowed me to have one.
Paul's diligence and sacrifice reminds me that drawing a friend toward Jesus' acceptance is messy, labor-intensive, love-laden work. I wish it were effortless. But more often than not, walking the road toward Jesus with a friend requires whole-hearted commitment. Using the lazy excuse of tolerance to escape the hard work of praying, loving, and speaking out is far too easy.
Now, I often pray that like Paul I can wrestle with the difficult questions of faith alongside my friends with Christ's powerful and unending energy (Ephesians 3:16). I admit I'm not always up for the fight, but an awareness of my tendency to slack off makes me desperate for God's strength and tenacity.
During the four years that Julie and I met regularly during our kids' preschool, she weathered her husband's infidelity, a bitter divorce, a sudden career change, and life as a newly single mom of four. Tears were shed, hugs doled out generously, and thousands of prayers uttered. But I have to confess I was often too scared to pray aloud with her or give her God's perspective. Perhaps she would think me odd or closed-minded or judgmental. Too often, I chose silence. I couldn't admit my fear of her opinion to myself or to God, so I donned the mask of tolerance. In the name of open-mindedness, I kept my prayers silent.